What Will The U.S. Brand Be With Trump As President?

Donald Trump is a master marketer. He knows what he wants from people and he knows how to get it. Furthermore, he’s willing to lie, which can be an odd advantage when he’s faced with people committed to telling the truth. Surprisingly and frighteningly, many people don’t seem to mind this trait. Despite frantic fact-checking revealing tons of inaccuracies, people merely shrugged. Nothing mattered except the allure of the promises.

He easily made the transition from marketing (selling tangible stuff like steaks and ties) to branding ( selling intangibles like experiences and promises). His business was built on developing a brand people found compelling: call it a fantasy dream world. I’m not knocking experiences and promises. Making and living up to promises is a core piece of what companies do. Many companies use their brand promises as a kind of compass about what they will and won’t do, and they value the trust this brings.

An authentic brand can be a company’s most valuable asset. We’ve seen how Trump has extracted maximum value from the Trump brand which in its simplest form is “luxury.” Its color would be gold.

real people don’t actually do this
real people don’t actually do this

Trump’s new business is America.

Culture is a key indicator of what the brand will be, what promises it will make and live by, and what tone it will set. The culture during the campaign was often referred to as a “rape culture.” The tone was violent and combustible. It was angry, as opposed to dissatisfied. It was anything goes. People were encouraged to yell, “lock her up”, occasionally “kill her”, and Trump was allowed to grab anything from anyone…..they just let him do it. Again, people just shrugged.

The administration culture is now being created with each new appointment. The line of what is and isn’t acceptable is being reset for America. The signs aren’t good. The tone remains angry and defiant. Mike Flynn has been called America’s angriest general. Most appointees come with the word “controversial” attached.

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Promises are what brands are made of . Trump knows this. He will appear to live up to his promises. He promised to “keep jobs in America” and recently announced he kept a Ford auto plant in the U.S. even though Ford had no intention of moving. But people don’t know that, so in Trumpworld, he’s already delivered on his promise to keep jobs here if all you read is his Twitter feed.

Which brings me to the media.

They must separate the fantasy from the reality. Otherwise we run the risk of a parallel universe, the real one and the one Trump tweets about.

If they don’t come along and promote the fantasy, they will face accusations of being “rigged”, and maybe even be banned. They have to endure. Their job description will have to lean strongly toward journalists foregoing the entertainment factor. Rick Lewis put it best on his blog, brokendownpalett

This isn’t going to be easy. They must take their designated place as watchdogs because we have a very unreliable narrator running the show.

So far, Trump has avoided media he can’t control. This was easy during the election. He simply banned certain outlets. Then he took to Twitter and got his own message out. On his recent 60 Minutes interview he explained how Twitter gave him a chance reach out to his 28 million + followers and give them his version of reality to counter unfair media accounts.

So, where does that leave us?

We can get our information from @realdonaldtrump on Twitter and the Bannon operation.

We can rely on the actual press (assuming that they are given access).

The press has never been more crucial. We are in a dark cave. Journalists are our connection to reality. We anxiously await their information.

Can they do it?

So far, no. They didn’t do it during the campaign. But in all fairness, they weren’t prepared for the circus that developed. Now they should be….they have to be. This is the best observation/analysis I’ve seen of the current state of journalism.

The basics:

Call things what they are: No more code words. The campaign was all undercurrents and innuendo. We need accurate translators now .

Face reality: The interview that you’re so excited to have landed and are preparing for isn’t with the White House Chief of Staff, it’s with Paul Bannon. Prepare for that! This isn’t normal stuff.

Hold people accountable:. During the campaign Trump said Melania would be holding a press conference in two weeks to discuss her citizenship process. That never happened. Only Lawrence O’Donnell on The Last Word reminded us weekly that “It’s three weeks, and no Melania,” “It’s four weeks….” etc.

Trump just stated on 60 Minutes with Leslie Stahl that he would not take a salary as President (which isn’t uncommon). We need followup on things like that. Journalists must be relentless. Unexposed, these unfulfilled promises become reality.

The survival of the democratic system requires stellar journalism. This most valuable resource will help us navigate a new landscape. Don’t let us down.

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